I’m going to start this with some waxing nostalgic. I swear it comes back to this class.
September 26, 2014. My first time experiencing a UVM hockey game at Gutterson Fieldhouse. UVM women were playing McGill in a preseason game. We got crushed 4-0, but I enjoyed myself enough to give the women’s team some of my attention that I hadn’t the previous year when I was still at home finishing high school. Three weeks later I was at the home opener against RPI, a 2-2 tie. And from then on, I was hooked.
After tomorrow, I will never see a UVM women’s game at Gutterson again with a player the team that I saw against McGill and RPI (I should note that two players who were also freshmen that year, Molly Depew and Bella Webster, left early). The team that got me into caring about women’s hockey, a sport I now write about for SB Nation. And thus I feel sort of a “bond” with this group, even though I’m willing to bet most of them have never spoken to me. (Although I know for a fact one of them has, haha.)
So let’s recognize those suiting up at Gutterson for the final time this afternoon.
#2 – Forward – Kourtney Menches
Career Totals: 131 GP, 9-15-24
Menches has made most of her career as a solid glue player despite her small 5’2″ frame. One that isn’t flashy, but will work hard and do dirty work to free up space for other players, and that can also kill penalties. After missing a chunk of the early season with an injury suffered in a preseason tie against the U of Montreal, Mench has turned into a solid two-way forward this year, with 12 points making up half of her career total. She is also the kind of student that you want as proof that you can excel on and off the ice, as a three-time Hockey East Top Scholar and All-Academic Team member, with one of those Top Scholars being as the highest GPA in the entire conference.
#10 – Forward – Mackenzie MacNeil
Career Totals: 136 GP, 17-20-37
If you hesitate for one second as a defender, MacNeil has you beat. A tireless worker and strong forechecker, MacNeil might be one of the fastest players in all of Hockey East, and scored a hat trick earlier this year against Ryerson in the Theresa Humes Invitational, an event that many have credited for UVM’s turnaround. According to a Cynic web article from January, which you can find here, she’s undecided on whether or not she wants to continue her hockey career and go pro. Like Menches, she’s also sharp in the classroom, as a member of the Hockey East All-Academic team last year.
#11 – Defender – Katherine Pate
Career Totals: 128 GP, 2-16-18
When you’re undersized, you need to bust your butt in order to make a hockey career work. Especially on defense. And Katherine Pate, listed at 5’2″, has done just that. Again, she’s not a world-beater, but she works hard and plays her role as a bottom-pairing defender quite well, and her smart positioning allows her to overcome her shorter stature. And with her, the run on good students continues, as she was also a member of the Hockey East All-Academic team in 2017.
#12 – Defender – Amanda Drobot
Career Totals: 141 GP, 5-38-43
Here’s something you probably didn’t realize: when UVM plays Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals, whether it be in Orono or Providence or Chestnut Hill, Drobot will be making history as the UVM player with the most games played (Sarah Kelly played 144). As a freshman, she posted 17 points, then dropped to 5 as a sophomore as she was moved to forward. Moving back to the blueline for last season, she rebounded with 9 last year and 12 so far this year. The eye test lately has really been in her favor as I think she’s been playing some of the best hockey of her career; she’s moving the puck nicely, and her chemistry with defense partner Sammy Kolowrat is evident – I’ve liked that pairing since it was put together. If she wants to, I think she could go pro.
#27 – Defender – Taylor Willard (C)
Career Totals: 141 GP, 21-41-62
Three-time Hockey East All-Academic, two-time Hockey East All-Star, and last season was a New England Hockey Writers Association Division I All-Star. With all due respect, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call Willard the best defender in program history. 62 points is 6th in program history (barring an absolute explosion in the last two games and in the playoffs, I don’t think she’ll catch Victoria Andreakos’s 69), her 41 assists is tied for 4th, and has she proven to be a solid captain. And the thing is, she’s not just offensively gifted (she can be breathtaking when she rushes the puck up the ice), as she does not neglect her defensive duties. If she does elect to go pro – which she has the talent to do – some CWHL or NWHL team is going to be very lucky. And like Drobot, she will break the UVM games played record when the Cats take to the ice for their second WHEA quarterfinal game, having missed just two games during her UVM career (the games at Providence and UConn at the start of this season).
Thank you for all you’ve done for this program, seniors. On the ice, you’ve been terrific to watch grow from freshmen just establishing themselves to seniors with plenty of experience. From your first official game against then-#8 (and still existing) North Dakota at the Ralph to these last few weeks against Minnesota, BC, etc, you’ve helped this program make some serious strides and showed the potential of Vermont women’s hockey. Let’s make sure you go out on a high note and build on the foundation you’ve helped lay down.